a recent show, a reader came up to a bookstand and she
was very upset. Why did Mr. Hevener kill off Kane in
The Blue Ribbon? she wanted to know. How could he do
such a thing!
poor bookseller didn't know what to say. But, had I
been there, I would have done my best to reassure the
reader that I never meant to hurt her in any way by
having Kane meet his end in the story. I would have
reminded her that, in the novel, he dies a heroic death
defending his property against intruders. And I would
remind her that there was a litter of puppies born for
Esmeralda to play with in many stories to come. But
she brought up a good point: When is it time to say
good-bye? And how far should we go to hold on to the
dogs we love? Let me tell you a story about "Dodge."
Lady's Ft. Dodge, a Black racing Greyhound, was
whelped in Kansas about eight years ago. Her dam was
a great producer of champion racers imported from Ireland
and her sire was a large dog named New Zealand's Greyhound
of the Year. He was imported to the U.S. with great
hopes and Dodge was one of his few puppies.
On a business trip to Kansas, I visited a kennel
and saw some of the most stunning Greyhound pups I had
ever seen. I have owned or worked with many dogs in
my life, of many different breeds. But these pups really
caught my attention. So much so, that I came home with
three of them and considered myself very lucky. It didn't
stop there. In order to secure the body type for my
bloodline, I ended up getting their dam and her only
sister as well.
Time went on and the pups did, indeed, turn into
what I hoped. The artist in me caught his breath when
they ran across the fields here, and I admired them
deeply. For three years, I waited patiently for the
chance to mate Dodge to the right dog. Her sister had
a litter, but they didn't compare to what Dodge had
thrown. When the chance came to breed her, I selected
a white & blue brindle son of Pacific Mile, the
$100,000 Greyhound from Ireland. We had imported this
son, raised him, and he was currently in Florida at
the Palm Beach Kennel Club. He was extremely fast, but
we were having some training issues at the time and
he was only starting his career on the track. I had
named him Hevener Marathon because his dam held a record
for distance and he had traveled a long journey from
Dublin to Kennedy Airport in New York as a puppy. It
had also been very difficult acquiring him because the
Breeder didn't want to sell.
When a valuable male dog is away traveling and
won't be available for breeding if we need him, we occasionally
store frozen semen at the nearest facility for that
purpose. This assures us that we will be able to produce
a litter when needed and such was the case with Dodge.
Telling myself that this might be her last litter, I
arranged for her to be surgically bred at the genetics
department of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.
Because it was a slow build until she reached the right
day, Dodge was there for about a week and the surgery
was a success. But, over the next 48 hours, that success
turned into a lonely nightmare. I say lonely, because
none of us understood what happened.
Many animal lovers have lost their pets in heart-wrenching
ways. When it's happening right in front of your eyes,
there isn't anything you wouldn't do, anything you wouldn't
pay. Save my pet! Save this pet I love!
But at what price? Is it wise for us to say,
yes - save my pet at any cost? Or is that a callous
question? Is it fair for veterinarians to charge us
many thousands of dollars to save dying pets? Or is
that also a callous question?
Where the pet and owner separate is a matter
of speculation. We do know that what affects one, affects
the other. Treating the pet is also treating the owner,
and, therefore, the veterinarian becomes a healer on
many levels. But, the veterinarian is in business. The
service is not free "because you are kind and loving
to an animal that needs saving." Or, because anyone
else sees your pet in the same, special way that you
do. If you cannot pay the bill, all sympathy will be
forgotten and the bill collector will be as nasty to
you as to anyone else.
As I write this, Dodge is probably going to make
it thanks to the care that about $5,000 can buy. Can
her pregnancy be saved? Nobody knows right now. I do
know that sympathy for a dog in need wasn't why Dodge
received the extra surgery, medications, and everything
else it took to pull her through. She only got those
things because someone would pay for it.
As I sat with other pet owners in the emergency
waiting room, I sensed fear, grief and tremendous outpouring
of love in cases that, I knew, would not end in joy.
How can you save the mixed Spaniel flopping limp in
his weeping master's arms? How can you save the Rottweiler
that collapsed at home, traveled four hours and arrived
barely breathing? I understood the passion of those
who loved them. And I asked myself for the truth: Were
these people in any state of mind to make sensible decisions?
I couldn't talk to anyone else at that moment. It's
not the time or place for one stranger to ask another
"This could amount to a lot of money. Are you sure
you understand that?"
Deep down, how do we really feel about paying
whatever it takes - even when we know that sometimes
we are billed for mistakes or shoddy care and no one
thinks twice about charging us for it? I'd like to know
what readers think about these things. I'd like to know
how you feel about veterinarians charging for things
that sometimes go wrong in their clinic - their own
mistakes - but charging you for it with little or no
show of conscience. I'd like to know what you think
about paying (and being asked to pay while you are in
emotional, spiritual and psychological distress) whatever
it takes to save the life of your pet. I'd like to know
if you ever pulled a pet through no matter what and
then, later, honestly wondered if it was really the
right thing to do - or, if it might have been more kind
to say, "Thank you, my friend. I love you and I
know we'll meet again. But, for now, it's time for us
to say good-bye."